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What OS X tweaks or customization applications do you find indispensable?

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  • Include a link to an application website if possible, formatted like ## [AppName](URL)
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It was decided on meta that price should not be specified in this type of question. Also, I've added some rules and pinged the mods to make this CW. –  Loïc Wolff Oct 26 '11 at 7:45
    
I'm confused. Is this about OS X hacks (defined in title)? Or is this about UI hacks (defined in the first line of the question)? And is this limited to applications (which?) (defined in rule § 1)? –  koiyu Oct 26 '11 at 8:17
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@Loïc Wolff - What about free/non-free? I think that is a useful distinction. Also, having the price, or at least the free/non-free status makes me feel a little less like I'm shilling for the company. –  Fake Name Oct 26 '11 at 8:31
    
@koiyu - Both. Some hacks come in the form of applications, and vice versa. Really, anything that tweaks the core behaviour of the finder/Window-manager is fair game. –  Fake Name Oct 26 '11 at 8:32
    
Even free/non-free can change (Growl, for instance) so this kind of information is too "volatile" to be kept as answer. If you feel this should be changed, you can talk about it on Ask Different Meta. –  Loïc Wolff Oct 26 '11 at 8:57
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29 Answers

Growl

This app needs no description, I suppose. Anyway Growl is a notification system that manages all the notifications send from every app that supports its framework. With version 1.3, it became even nicer, too bad some apps (like Skype) doesn't support the new version yet. enter image description here

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10.8 Notification Center will probably replace Growl for most applications. –  Dan Mar 9 '12 at 21:44
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Better Touch Tool

Adds immense configurability to the touchpad and the magic mouse (though the magic mouse touch resolution is kind of poor, IMHO).

Also, you can have per-application trackpad shortcuts. I have all my tab-management mapped to various taps, so I can browse and change tabs without having to use the keyboard or move the mouse to the tab bar.

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~/Library/KeyBindings/DefaultKeyBinding.dict

A property list that enables you to bind keystrokes to sequences of Objective-C methods. It can be used to define text editing macros that work in most standard text views.

{
    // copy paragraph (option-c)
    "~c" = (selectParagraph:, copy:);

    // convert selection to lowercase (option-minus)
    "~-" = (lowercaseWord:, moveForward:);

    // insert line below (command-return)
    "@\r" = (moveToEndOfParagraph:, insertNewline:,
    deleteToBeginningOfParagraph:);

    // insert an XML tag (option-shift-x)
    "~X" = (moveWordBackwardAndModifySelection:, setMark:, deleteToMark:,
    insertText:, "<></>", moveBackward:, yank:, moveWordBackward:,
    moveBackward:, moveBackward:, moveBackward:, yank:, moveForward:);
}

To get started, make ~/Library/KeyBindings/ and save a property list like the one above as DefaultKeyBinding.dict.

More information:

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Alfred

An app that basically puts your spotlight in a hotkey activated bar, but with many more features, like browsing your file system straight from the bar. Supports theming and is very Apple-esque. It basically allowed me to ditch my dock and the need to use folders to organize specific files.

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"caps lock" remapped to do nothing:

enter image description here

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I did it too :-) –  Rabskatran Oct 27 '11 at 7:10
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You could share us how did you do it. –  koiyu Oct 27 '11 at 8:15
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@koiyu: System Preferences → Keyboard → Keyboard tab → Modifier keys… → Caps Lock Key → No Action. –  Harald Hanche-Olsen Oct 27 '11 at 16:05
    
I do not have enough mojo to attach pictures :( or mod up the previous comment which is basically the same. –  adavid Oct 27 '11 at 16:52
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Or better yet, remap caps lock to act as an extra control key. In my opinion, caps lock is a much easier key to use in key combinations than either of the regular control keys. –  Warren Pena Dec 9 '11 at 23:41
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Moom

Adds a pop-up window size manager with shortcuts to various window layouts when you mouse over the green "Maximize" button in the window titlebar.

It gives you shortcuts to various window sizes, and lets you drag a box over a grid, to resize the window.

enter image description here

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This is awesome. Thanks! –  boehj Oct 30 '11 at 21:52
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Secrets

The Secrets Preference Pane

Secrets is two things: (1) A database of hidden command-line preferences for Mac OS X and many of its apps, and, more importantly, (2) a free Preference Pane that turns them all into checkboxes and automatically downloads updates from (1). If there's a defaults command that anyone anywhere finds useful, it'll be there.

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StartUp Sounds Pref Panel (free)

A pref panel that allows you to set a sound level (or mute) the startup sound of your mac.

enter image description here

Note: Intel users should download version 1.1.

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From the web page: "StartupSound.prefPane 1.0 requires a Mac with PowerPC processors running Mac OS X version 10.2 or later." So I assume it doesn't work with Lion then? –  patrix Oct 26 '11 at 18:41
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@patrix: I use v1.13b, which works with Lion. –  Jonas Oct 26 '11 at 21:34
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Afloat

Adds a lot of advanced window-management options, including changing window transparency, and forcing any window to be always on top.

I use it for setting long running terminal tasks on top, in a corner of the monitor.


It uses SIMBL, which probably should warrant it's own answer post.

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I love this overlooked tool –  nimcap Oct 26 '11 at 11:18
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One word Quicksilver.

Quicksilver is a light, fast and free Mac application that gives you the power to control your Mac with keystrokes alone.

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2  
Seriously, add a link and a small explanation of what the app does. We're here to help people who don't know about Quicksilver, not get upvote from people who know what the app does. –  Loïc Wolff Oct 27 '11 at 20:46
    
I'm using Alfred for this functionality. –  neontapir Oct 29 '11 at 21:32
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Witch

Allows Cmd+Tab to operate between windows, rather then applications.

enter image description here

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MagicPrefs

If you have an Apple Magic Mouse, then this app unlocks it's true potential. From their site:

It features the ability to bind a variable number of finger clicks, taps, swipes, pinch and other gestures to functions like Middle Click, Hold Down Both Mouse Buttons, Spaces, Expose, Dashboard, Recent Applications, Tweet, Read Tweets, Google Reader etc

enter image description here

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2  
BetterTouchTool offers the same functionality as well, along with a lot more configurability. –  Fake Name Oct 26 '11 at 13:08
    
@FakeName: Really? I will check that out. –  Josh Oct 26 '11 at 13:09
    
Yep! I actually initially started using BetterTouchTool with a magic mouse, but I got rid of it because I found the mouse acceleration in OS X abominable (to the point where it was ruining my windows mousing performance, and I rely on that professionally). Now, I use trackpads on Macs, and mice on Windows, and everything is right with the world. –  Fake Name Oct 26 '11 at 13:12
    
Incidentally, I found multi (three plus) finger magic mouse gestures REALLY touchy, so while the option may be there, it is probably not a good idea. Have you actually had any luck getting them to trigger reliably? (They work great on the trackpad) –  Fake Name Oct 26 '11 at 13:15
    
I use three finger click (middle click) and used to use swipe (change spaces) and those worked very well... but I had to adjust the sensitivity first. I also love the realtime display of where your fingers are. –  Josh Oct 26 '11 at 15:25
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Cinch

Adds Win 7 "snap" feature to OS X. From their site:

Cinch gives you simple, mouse-driven window management by defining the left, right, and top edges of your screen as 'hot zones'. Drag a window until the mouse cursor enters one of these zones then drop the window to have it cinch into place. Cinching to the left or right edges of the screen will resize the window to fill exactly half the screen, allowing you to easily compare two windows side-by-side (splitscreen). Cinching to the top edge of the screen will resize the window to fill the entire screen (fullscreen). Dragging a window away from its cinched position will restore the window to its original size.

Screencast

enter image description here

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By the way, BetterSnapTool is indeed way better than Cinch - and is less costly as well... –  TCSGrad Oct 27 '11 at 7:46
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HyperDock

Adds a Windows-7 style window previews to the dock. Excellent if you have lots of windows from one app. You can also close individual windows from the preview.

It also allows you catch and override clicks on the app icon. For instance, I have every click on the Terminal.app icon open a new terminal window, rather then just switch to the open terminal window.

Lastly, it also includes Win-7 style window-snapping, where dragging a window to the top of the screen will maximize it, and grabbing and dragging the window away from the top of the screen will restore the size.

enter image description here

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NTFS for Mac® OS X 9.5

This is especially mandatory for OS X Lion, for those of us who use portable USB HDDs to store their data, and need them to be accessible across all OSes (NTFS being the default choice, as its well supported by both Windows / Linux). Lion does not have native write support for NTFS volumes, making this the first app you'd want to install on it. From their site:

When working with media files or documents in Mac, you need access to the high performance of your system regardless if the files are located on the Mac’s HFS+ formatted volume, or in Window’s NT File System. Paragon NTFS for Mac® OS X 9.5 is the only NTFS driver on the market that provides full read/write access to NTFS with the same high speed as native HFS+ files. NTFS for Mac® OS X 9.5 is the first NTFS driver to support the latest OS X Lion!

Screenshots of Read / Write benchmarks are given, as there's little point in giving the screenshot of the control tray !

Read Benchmark Write Benchmark

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Um, forgive me if I'm missing something here but this is natively supported in OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) and I beleive Lion as well ... there is a minor hack to be made to your fstab file but I didn't need to purchase anything to get NTFS support. link hints.macworld.com/article.php?story=20090913140023382 –  Robert French Oct 27 '11 at 6:22
    
As per my comment above ... NTFS support (OS X 10.6) hints.macworld.com/article.php?story=20090913140023382 –  Robert French Oct 27 '11 at 6:23
    
I was talking about OS X Lion, which has read-only access by default. Though the free solution (NTFS-3G) is reported to work (see shallowhacker.blogspot.com/2011/08/…), I've read about intermittent errors, and hence went with the bug-free solution. –  TCSGrad Oct 27 '11 at 7:24
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I would recommend exFAT as a natively supported over this hack anytime except when you just can't because of some obscure reasons. –  iskra Oct 27 '11 at 13:41
    
@iskra - I didn't really get you. I have 3 1 TB HDDs on NTFS - how would using exFAT help me, without having to reformat all my HDDs (and have to deal with removing and restoring the data in each case) ? Also, is exFAT supported on WinXP - a lot of ppl I know do use it still, and I need my HDDs to be universally usable. –  TCSGrad Oct 27 '11 at 14:38
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BlueHarvest

A little .PrefPane that automatically deletes all the hidden .DS_Store, ._ AppleDouble, and
._[file name] files that OS X unfortunately spews all over any network or thumb drive you let it touch.

Absolutely indispensable if you work in an mixed platform (OS X & Windows) environment where there are shared drives.

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Hazel

I use Hazel to organize the contents of my hard drive. Hazel is a folder monitoring tool. You can write rules to perform one or more actions on files in a folder that meet certain criteria. For example, you can:

  • Delete duplicate or "old" files
  • Move files with certain patterns in their names into folders (I use prefixes)
  • Import music or movies into iTunes
  • Import pictures into iPhoto
  • Have Growl show a message

I have a folder Hazel monitors called Incoming that implements most of these rules. I therefore just need to drag files into this folder and they "magically" get filed away. If only my paper inbox were this easy to manage....

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Divvy

Divvy's four screens: The main panel, the General and Appearance preferences, and the Shortcuts screen.

Similar to but better (in my opinion) than Moom. It's a window management tool that lets you draw the desired location of the window on a grid. I believe it was the first on the Mac to use that particular bit of UI genius.

It's more configurable, as well; you can control the number of rows and columns in the grid, and optionally include margins between them. You can configure shortcut keys for any possible size and position on any possible grid, not just the top/bottom/left/right halves.

Divvy is also available for Windows; which means that if you are virtualizing Windows with e.g. VMware Fusion in Unity mode (like Coherence on Parallels) and the Mac-flavour Divvy can't control the layout of Windows' windows, you could trigger the Win-Divvy and adjust the layout.

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TinkerTool

Allows you to change additional preference settings Apple has built into Mac OS X. This allows to activate hidden features in the operating system and in some of the applications delivered with the system. Another great feature is that you can revert the settings back to default. And, it's free!

Application settings:

Font settings:

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Remapping the Caps Lock key to Control. Really helps when doing stuff in the Terminal. I just always make the mistake of trying to use it like this on computers that aren't mine.

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and you avoid "Emacs pinky"! –  tekknolagi Oct 27 '11 at 6:43
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You could share us how did you do it. –  koiyu Oct 27 '11 at 8:15
    
I have a macbook with a japanese keyboard. It comes stock with the caps lock and ctrl key positions swapped. –  Fake Name Oct 27 '11 at 11:08
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Zooom2

Allows you to move or resize a window under the pointer by holding modifier keys.

  • Magnetics: windows get snapped to screen edges and other UI elements
  • Windows can be resized from the nearest corner
  • You can use fn as a modifier key
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BetterSnapTool

I love this app for letting me quickly and easily organize windows on my screen. Using hotkeys or dragging a window to certain areas of the screen will automatically resize the window and snap it to specific sizes/regions.

A few examples: full screen, half screen (left/right or top/btm), quarter screen (quadrants), third screen (side-by-side-by-side).

A bonus feature: quickly move and resize a window however you like w/o clicking anywhere on the window. For example, by pressing Fn and moving my cursor I can move the window under it and pressing Shift-Fn instead resizes the window as I move my cursor.

When people see me using the features, they think I'm a Jedi. You, too, can be a Jedi for $1.99!

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MMFix

↑ direct download. Related discussion in French.

A patch for the media control daemon which frees media keys from iTunes, so one can use them with any supporting app without automatically launching iTunes.

The app is a simple one-click installer. And, if some reason you would like to remove the patch, just run the one-click installer again and the original rcd daemon will be restored.

Tested to work at least in Snow Leopard and Lion.

Source: How can I stop iTunes 10 launching when pressing the Play/Pause buttons?

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defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false

Type the command to Terminal and restart the apps you would like to be affected (… or just restart the Mac altogether) to keep the characters repeating while holding its key.

Using this hack, you will also need to type the accented/alternative characters in the traditional way; which is to e.g. first press ´ then e to get é.

To revert this hack, type defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool true and you can use the alternative character selector once again (e.g. to get é press and hold e until you see the selector and then choose é from the list).

Source: In Lion, if I keep pressing a key, why doesn't it repeat?

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WinShortcutter

I work in an office with a mixed environment, with a central server for storing documents. Windows users flick paths on the server to other users, either as UNC paths (such as \\FileServer01\topfolder\subfolder\shared.doc), or Windows mapped shortcuts (such as S:/topfolder/subfolder/shared.doc). This is a huge pain for Mac users, who have to mount, and then navigate the file system manually.

We use WinShortcutter, which is freeware. The allows you to right-click on a UNC path (such as \\FileServer01\topfolder\subfolder\shared.doc) and Open as Windows Link: Opening Windows links

It's quite configurable as well, and allows drive mappings (so when you are sent a link that starts S:/folder, it will allow you to Open as Windows Link). Winshortcutter in the Prefs pane This works quite reliably for us, and i can't imagine having a machine without it.

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DTerm

Provides terminal access inside any applicaiton.

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Hidden Settings

Hidden Settings is a preference pane that installs into the System Preferences application in Mac OS X. The purpose of it is to provide users an easy way to access some hidden features in the operating system and some applications that ship with it.

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Pastebot & Pastebot Sync

Pastebot is an iOS app that, as long as it remains running in the background, keeps a clipboard history. But better than that, it also has a free companion app for Mac that lets you copy and paste both ways between your iPhone and Mac, instantly, over Wi-Fi. It works with images as well as text.

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Jitouch

A Mac application that expands the set of multi-touch gestures for the new MacBook, the Magic Mouse, and the Magic Trackpad. These thoughtfully designed gestures will enable you to perform frequent tasks more easily such as changing tabs in web browsers, closing windows, minimizing windows, changing spaces, and a lot more.

Jitouch in action

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This appears to basically be a clone of Better Touch Tool, which is free (Jitouch is not). –  Fake Name Feb 8 '12 at 7:16
    
@FakeName It is a clone, but it is much better clone and well worth the money IMO. I use both BTT and Jitouch in conjunction and that works really well. –  daviesgeek Feb 8 '12 at 16:28
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